In last week’s post we considered the words tedium, tedious, lackluster, feckless, snooze, & soporific. This week, as we all remain sequestered in our homes, we will continue in that vein.
Dawdle probably came to English in the 1650s in reference to a bird perceived as silly and foolish, the daw. Then again, dawdle may simply be a variant of daddle, to walk unsteadily. No matter its origins, many folks find themselves dawdling these days.
In 1794 the word otiose entered the English language. It came from the Latin word otiosus, meaning unoccupied, not busy, or having leisure. It appears to have no relationship at all to the word odious, also of Latin origin, but meaning offensive, unpleasant & hateful.
The phrase to twiddle one’s thumbs first appeared in English in 1846, though its precursor, twiddle, meaning to trifle, showed up as early as the 1540s. Twiddle’s origin is unknown.
In modern usage, dreary means dull, boring, or causing sadness or gloom, & though its original meaning may have been cause for sadness, it was far more dramatic. Dreary comes from the Old English word dreorig, which meant cruel, gory or bloodstained. Its first English usage occurred in Paradise Lost in 1667, & meant dripping blood. Here's hoping nobody's experiencing that at the moment.
Back in 1897 the word slacker entered the language, meaning one who shirks work. It appears to be related to the Old English word sleacornes, which meant laziness. Though the word was re-popularized in the 1990s, slackers have been around forever & for nearly 120 years we have had the word slacker to identify them.
Slackers, otiosity, dreariness, dawdling & thumb-twiddling might all inspire a feeling of world-weariness, melancholy, or pessimism. And, what a surprise, we have a word for that, too. The word weltschmerz arrived in English in 1863 from German, meaning world-pain or world-woe.
So, good readers, when faced with slackers and thumb-twiddlers, or when locked up in your house for too long, how are managing to avoid a raging case of weltschmerz?
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: OED, Etymonline, & Wordnik, & Sloth – A Dictionary for the Lazy,
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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